(ATR) A Frenchman on a Major League Baseball franchise? Yes, it could happen as baseball's global efforts reach the Old World.
Antonac wants to be the first French player in MLB history (FFBS)
His name is Yoan Antonac, he is a pitcher from the city of Montpellier and at only 17 years of age he recently signed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
This is apparently not a publicity stunt by the Phillies to grow their European fan base. Antonac is a legitimate talent who has played with the French national team for an age group above him as well as playing for MLB World Select teams. Currently, Antonac pitches for the Montpellier Barracudas.
“I got interest in baseball because a field was nearby my neighborhood, so I tried it and fell in love with it. And I was kind of proud to play an American sport, much more original than soccer and rugby,” explains Antonac to Around the Rings
“I heard a lot of things about the Phillies growing up because one of my best friends in my neighborhood was from Philly, so I grew up a bit with the Phillies,” he added.
Antonac is physically imposing, as he stands six feet, eight inches (2.03 meters), so the Phillies likely feel they have a great template to work with as they try and turn Antonac into a contributing member of the organization.
“My dream is to be the first French player in MLB and become an all-star…. I have to improve everywhere, physically, mentally and on my throwing mechanics. I think the perfect baseball player does not exist, and you always have to improve, you always have to learn from this game even if you played all your life," explained Antonac
As the Phillies are a very young team right now, they have time for a guy like Antonac to develop. The French teenager will play this summer in the Rookie League before he goes back to France to finish high school.
“Baseball is growing in France, and we want baseball to be a part of the 2024 Olympics in Paris to help the game grow up in my country. We can get better facilities to host other big tournaments in Europe. I truly believe that baseball has its Olympic place in Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles," added the new Phillies farmhand.
According to MLB, 27 percent of its 877 players at the start of the 2018 season were born overseas.
“My friends and neighbors were a bit surprised because I was playing baseball in a country where people only play baseball on the Wii, and also because I'm very tall and I wasn't playing basketball or volleyball,“ explained the young French pitcher .
Antonac is presently playing with the French national team at the U-18 European Championship in Italy.
“My role models are Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Aroldis Chapman and Noah Syndergaard. I really like Syndergaard because he's a warrior on the field and he attacks the hitter. He has a great mindset, and a great way to hold his game."
Yoan Antonac is the seventh French player that has signed an MLB contract after René Leveret (Minnesota Twins, 2003), Joris Bert (LA Dodgers, 2007), Fred Hanvi (Minnesota Twins, 2007), Carlos Hereaud (Milwaukee Brewers, 2009), Andy Paz (Oakland Athletics, 2011), Alexandre Roy (Seattle Mariners, 2012), José Paula (Oakland Athletics, 2015) and Ernesto Martinez (Milwaukee Brewers, 2017).
None of them have made it to "The Show", the nickname for the major leagues.
Homepage photo: FFBS
Written by Javier Monne
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